If one your New Year’s resolutions was to see more art shows, then you should find this guide quite handy. From east coast to west coast and over the pond, we’re in for an exciting year of ambitious retrospectives and thematic group shows. Explore the seedy underbelly of ’30s and ’40s New York with Weegee’s intense crime scene photography. Take a trip into the intimate dreamworld of female Surrealists. Meet Keith Haring before he was a superstar. Be other people with Cindy Sherman. Here are just some of the exhibits that we’re most looking forward to in 2012.
The Museum of Modern Art: Cindy Sherman February 26 – June 11, 2012, New York
Through her self portraits, Cindy Sherman has been a film noir starlet, a murderous Caravaggio muse, a centerfold, a rodeo clown, and hundreds of other personas. She has also been her own photographer, model, and stylist, channeling the grotesque, exaggerated core of each of her incarnations. Spanning 180 photographs, MoMA’s retrospective Sherman’s illustrious career of being other people, from the 1970s to the present, including the American premiere of Sherman’s recent photographic murals.
Tate Modern: Yayoi Kusama February 9 – June 5, 2012, London
One of Japan’s most famous contemporary artists, who as a self-proclaimed “outsider” conquered the New York art world in the 1960s, Yayoi Kusama has voluntarily lived in a psychiatric institution since 1977. Do the dots look familiar? She recently unleashed hundreds of child disciples to obliterate a white room with thousands of colorful dot stickers. Dots, patterns, mirrored installations of speckled light — the self-reinventing artist has turned her neurotic and obsessional symptoms into immersive, striking experiences. This unique retrospective will be her biggest exhibit ever in the UK.
The Brooklyn Museum: Keith Haring: 1978-1982 March 16 – July 8, 2012, New York
This vast, large-scale exhibit of Keith Haring’s early work circa 1978-1982 boasts rarely seen sketchbooks, flyers, subway drawings, works on paper, cut-up writing, and experimental video. See the downtown art superstar’s oeuvre from when he first arrived to New York City and explore his radically-minded outdoor murals, which have been integral to “legitimization” of graffiti and street art.
LACMA: In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States January 29 – May 6, 2012, Los Angeles
While their male counterparts’ focus was diverted with masturbatory hallucinations of women as objects, the female Surrealists delved freely into the internal dream world. Akin to Alice, these North American artists and European expats went on personal journeys of exploration. See their subconscious-driven portraiture in a thematically organized group show spanning 175 works from 1931 to 1968, featuring icons like Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, and lesser known heroines like Maya Deren and more.
The New Museum: The Ungovernables, the Second New Museum Triennial February 15 – April 22, New York
With the Occupy Wall Street movement and revolutionary uprisings world-wide, it’s only appropriate that the New Museum will dedicate its space to work that channels “civil disobedience and self-determination” and both “anarchic and organized resistance.” Do not mistake this for a protest art exhibit: The work in this group show fights the power with conceptual complexity. Danh Võ’s WE THE PEOPLE reconstructs the “skin” of the Statue of Liberty. Adrián Villar Rojas’s cracked clay sculptures represent failure of meaning itself and explores how those broken parts are re-purposed. There are over fifty young artists from all around the world participating, all born in the mid ’70s to mid ’80s.
Walker Art Center: Lifelike February 25 – May 27, 2012, Minneapolis
This immaculately detailed, full-scale replica of Keith Edmier’s childhood home’s kitchen circa 1971 is one of the highlights of the Lifelike group show, bringing you incredibly realistic art of all mediums, from 1960s to the present. It asks, Is It Real? Find out. Confront giant milk cartons. Gander at stuffed trash bags that aren’t really trash bags, which makes their mysterious contents that more alluring. Subverting the commonplace object — by scale, strange material or statements on the art’s “authenticity” — this group show brings you labor-intensive, hand-made objects from 55 artists, from Fischli and Weiss to Ai Weiwei.
The National Portrait Gallery: Lucian Freud: Portraits February 9 – May 27, 2012, London
The first exhibit of the legendary figurative painter Lucian Freud, the National Portrait Gallery’s show spans 70 years of Freud’s prolific career and his artistic development. It was produced in close collaboration with the artist, before he passed away last year. With 100 paintings of family, friends, lovers and other personal muses rendered with Freud’s signature intensity, this promises to be a vast and simultaneously intimate show.
The International Center of Photography: Weegee: Murder Is My Business January 20 – September 2, 2012, New York
Legendary photojournalist and newspaper freelancer of the 1930s and 1940s, Weegee has made his fame capturing gruesome murder scenes and high profile court drama. After a brief and miserable time as a Hollywood paparazzi, Weegee returned to New York, to the corpses and cops he like better than celebrities. His incredible crime photography as well as “environmental recreations of Weegee’s apartment and exhibitions” will be on view at the International Center of Photography. Sounds exciting and not for the weak of heart.
The Smithsonian Museum: The Art of Video Games March 16 – September 30, 2012, Washington DC
To pick the featured video games for this genre-blending gaming+art extravaganza, 3.7 million votes were cast by 119,000 people from 175 countries. From Atari VSC to the Playstation 3, see “the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium.” Large format reproductions of screenshots, gaming footage, interviews and artifacts will highlight highlighting the visual effects, narratives, skills and concepts involved in creating these interactive worlds. Oh, and vistors can play a few minutes of Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower, if they like. How’s that for interactive?
The Museum of Contemporary Art: Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 April 8 – July 30 2012, Los Angeles
The first museum show to focus on Land Art will show you some of the grandest, natural works that couldn’t fit in a museum. Take Patricia Johanson’s Stephen Long — a very long strip painted in primary colors that ran along the abandoned Boston and Maine railroad bed in Buskirk, New York in 1969, changing hues in the rising and setting sun. Then, take Michael Heizer’s Double Negative — a 1500-foot trench cut in a side of Nevada desert mesa in 1969, displacing 240,000-tons of rhyolite and sandstone. That’s heavy lifting.